Plenty of Steelers fans currently are upset with the performance of coach Mike Tomlin, given the team’s inability to get back to the Super Bowl or, more specifically, to get past the Patriots. (And now the Jaguars.) A small group of Steelers fans who own pieces of the franchise’s equity are particularly miffed with Tomlin — sufficiently miffed that they want to see a change get made.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, some of the team’s limited partners intend to lobby owner Art Rooney to fire of Tomlin and to hire a new coach.
The limited partners, who became involved nearly a decade ago as member of the Rooney family sold their interest in the team after acquiring gaming interests that violate league policy, have no authority over the management of the team, but they have a pipeline to owner Art Rooney. Per the source, they plan to utilize it.
The full group of Steelers’ limited partners includes Rob Citrone, Paul Evanson, Larry Paul, Stephen Paul, Bruce Rauner, Paul Sams, John Stallworh, Benjamin Statler, Scott Swank, David Tepper, Thomas Tull, Peter Varischetti, and Mike Wilkins.
The concerns relate to the increasingly obvious issues with decision-making in key moments of the game, also known as “situational football.” The absence of a plan in the final seconds of the loss last month to the Patriots was one thing; the frittering away of the final 47 seconds on Sunday against the Jaguars, when Pittsburgh was five yards from the end zone and down 10 points, only made it worse. (The source specifically pointed to those key 47 seconds, noting that the players were moving without any real sense of urgency as the clock was ticking and the Steelers needed two scores.)
The limited partners who will be pushing for a new coach also are concerned about the team’s lack of discipline, with last year’s Facebook Live fiasco from receiver Antonio Brown a prime example of it.
Tomlin drew criticism from many in November for talking openly about meeting the Patriots both in the regular season and in the playoffs, before Pittsburgh had even clinched a postseason berth. One of Tomlin’s key players, running back Le'Veon Bell, proclaimed via social media after New England beat Tennessee on Saturday night that the Steelers would have a pair of regular-season rematches in the playoffs — one against the Jaguars on Sunday and another against the Patriots the following Sunday.
Yes, Tomlin has won a Super Bowl and taken the team to another one. But the last appearance in the NFL title game came seven years ago; there’s currently a sense that the Steelers are underachieving under Tomlin. As one source observed, Pittsburgh would be undefeated if Bill Belichick were the coach, given the talent on the roster.
The Steelers have had only three coaches since 1969, with Chuck Noll yielding in 1992 to Bill Cowher, who resigned after the 2006 season. It’s believed by some that Art Rooney II preferred Russ Grimm as the replacement for Cowher, but that the late Dan Rooney wanted Tomlin.
Now that Art II is running the team, Art II can make the call on whether to change coaches. While it’s not believed he’ll give the limited partners’ plea any credence on its own, if Art II already is thinking about making a change, the coming effort by the limited partners to advocate for change could at least be a factor.